Interview a Veteran: Join the Nation’s Greatest Oral History Project
Do you have veteran in your extended family? How about a neighbor, colleague, or friend who has served in the military? I would like to invite you to contribute the personal experience of a veteran to the Veteran’s History Project for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. It is not only an important contribution you can make to honor veterans in your family or community but also you will be adding their voice to those of other veterans from all phases of the military for future generations to understand the human side of the lives of veterans.
Created by unanimous bipartisan congressional support, the Veteran’s History Project is now the largest oral history project in our nation’s history. Today there are almost 80,000 stories of veterans recorded and deposited at the Library of Congress. These accounts bring to life the experience of those who served in World War I right up to the time of current missions and conflicts. Developed by folklorists and oral historians, the project invites your participation in this legendary effort. You say, I am not trained to conduct an interview. Well, you can learn to be a documentarian and also use this opportunity to get to know a family or community member better in a deeper lasting way. Virtually everyone who has conducted an interview has come away with praise for the experience and appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who have served. All too often, we find ourselves wishing we had asked earlier—so it is never too soon to start.
It is Easy to Do—Make a Difference
What do I have to do? Well, it is simple thanks to the staff of the Veteran’s History Project. Go to the VHS web site at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where you can learn more about the project and download the interview forms that will guide your interview. You may recall seeing the Ken Burns documentary, The War, a few years ago. With the assistance of Ken Burns, the VHS has created a fine tutorial on how to complete a successful oral history of a veteran. Just go to: http://www.loc.gov/vets/
You will find it to be one of the most personally rewarding things you have ever done-- and you will contribute to this historic national tribute to our veterans.
C. Kurt Dewhurst
Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives
University Outreach and Engagement
Director Emeritus and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage
MSU Museum and Professor of English and Museum Studies
Michigan State University